Are you a pregnant woman coming to Italy and worried about what you can eat? It’s true that Italian food isn’t that foreign to most but there definitely some foods you likely will want to steer away from.
I have been pregnant four times while living in Italy. Needless to say, I have been around the block when it comes to what may want to avoid with a bump.
In this article I will share with you my top 10 foods to avoid in Italy while pregnant based on my first hand experience. I chose these foods based on how common and likely you are to run across them.
But don’t worry about going hungry! I will also share what I like to order instead, making it easy and stress-free to find alternatives to any of these foods while traveling in Italy.
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(Pronounced kahr-pahch-choh in Italian)
Carpaccio is an appetizer from Venice (Veneto) made from paper thin slices of raw beef (or it can be made with fish known as carpaccio di pesce) plated with arugula, a drizzle of olive oil, shavings of parmesan cheese and a bit of lemon.
Avoid carpaccio if you don’t want to eat raw meat while you’re in Italy.
What I Order Instead: Look for other protein heavy appetizers such as a sformato di verdura, a savory egg flan with vegetables.
Pregnant In Venice: For my detailed insights and experience on eating in Venice with a bump, check out Eating in Venice While Pregnant.
Mozzarella (And Other Raw Cheeses)
(Pronounced maat-suh-REH-luh in Italian)
Mozzarella is a fresh cow’s milk (or buffalo cow) cheese that is usually unpasteurized. If you are avoiding unpasteurized foods, you’ll want to avoid mozzarella. Sometimes fresh mozzarella is in a recipe that is cooked (such as on pizza, for example), which means the mozzarella is also cooked.
If instead you see fresh mozzarella served in salads, topped raw on pizza, or served in a mixed appetizer (and you’re avoiding unpasteurized cheeses), skip it.
What I Order Instead: Look for another protein option under the same section of the menu. I order the tagliere di formaggio (cheese plate) as long as the cheeses on it are pasteurized.
(Pronounced cah-PREH-zeh in Italian)
A caprese salad in Italian is a fresh tomato, mozzarella, and basil salad enjoyed as an appetizer or for a light lunch paired with cured meats and bread in the summer. The fresh mozzarella is not pasteurized, so avoid it if you’re avoiding unpasteurized cheeses.
What I Order Instead: Look for another type of salad such as insalata di carciofi (raw artichoke salad), insalata di pollo (chicken salad), or insalata di pesce or polpo (steamed cooked fresh seafood or octopus salad).
Prosciutto Crudo (And Other Cured Meats)
(Pronounced proh-shoot-toh crop-doh in Italian)
Basically any kind of cured meat such as prosciutto, bresaola, salami, finocchiona, etc. should be avoided if you are avoiding uncooked meats. Unfortunately, prosciutto crudo and other cured meats have not been cooked (they’ve only been cured).
In Italy cured meats are huge and you will see them all over the place. Don’t worry though, just opt for cooked deli meats instead. To learn more about which cold cuts are included in cured meats read Italian Sausage Names – A Guide To Types Of Italian Sausages and Types Of Prosciutto.
Depending on which region you are visiting in Italy, cured meats may play a large role in the regional cuisine. If you are in Tuscany, you may want to read Eating in Tuscany While Pregnant – From a Mamma of Four in Florence.
(Pronounced tee-rah-mee-soo in Italian)
Unfortunately, tiramisù cannot be enjoyed while pregnant in Italy if you are avoiding raw eggs because one of tiramisù’s main ingredients is raw egg. Tiramisù is really easy to make at home though (follow my recipe here) so the moment you give birth, have yourself a little Italian party at home and celebrate with tiramisù!
What I Order Instead: Panna cotta is a refreshing cold dessert made from cooked cream that will satisfy any sweet tooth (and also fits the bill for a creamy, cold dessert, just like tiramisù).
(Pronounced zah-bi-oh-neh in Italian)
Zabaione, a custard cream from Piedmont, is similar to tiramisù in the sense that it’s made with raw eggs. Many desserts in Northern Italy might include zabaione including simple cookies that are served alongside a bowl for dipping or with panettone or pandoro.
What I Order Instead: For something creamy, order gelato or a budino (pudding).
For the best gelato in Italy read Best Gelato In Venice – My Italian Family’s 10 Favorite Gelaterie In Venice and Best Gelato In Florence – From A Local.
Tartare (And Other Raw Fish)
(Pronounced tahr-tahr-eh in Italian
Tartare refers to a raw kind of fish (or meat) in general. It could be tuna, white fish or beef. In general, if you want to avoid any kind of raw fish while in Italy, avoid foods like raw oysters, raw scampi, and smoked salmon (things you see on cicchetti in Venice, for example).
What I Order Instead: Go for cooked fish such as polpo alla griglia (grilled octopus), branzino in cartoccio (sea bass cooked in paper), a fish stew, or pesce spada alla siciliana (when in Sicily) .
(Pronounced croh-stee-nee neh-ree in Italian)
Also known as crostini toscani, crostini neri are small pieces of grilled bread topped with chicken liver patè most commonly served in Tuscany. Crostini are a very popular appetizer in Italy so if you’re avoiding patè, just skip this kind and choose another.
(Pronounced tahr-too-fee in Italian)
Tartufi are truffles in Italian and these tubers are a foraged food item that may contain traces of dirt. Truffles are renowned for being difficult to clean and because they aren’t cooked, there is a small risk of bacteria.
What I Order Instead: I always look for another similar dish that has a seasonal vegetable in it instead. For example, if there is risotto ai tartufi, I will look for another type of risotto. In the fall this might be with zucca (squash). Instead of tagliatelle con tartufo, order tagliatelle con sugo di carne (with meat sauce).
(Pronounced bee-stehk-kah fee-oh-rehn-tee-nah)
Bistecca alla Fiorentina is definitely Florence’s most iconic dish and quite the show-stopper BUT if you’re avoiding raw meat, you will have to pass this time. Bistecca Fiorentina is always (and best) served rare. Of course, you could order it ben cotto or well-done but you will absolutely get a strange look from your waiter and you will be spending a lot of money for a gray piece of rubber.
What I Order Instead: Florence is also well known for their bistecche di maiale or pork chops. They are safe to eat and extremely flavorful, especially local breads such as the Cinta Senese.